Chapter#3| That Kind Of Love Never Dies
Khushi couldn’t see his face clearly, due to the mist, so she asked NK hurriedly. ‘Who is he?’
NK needn’t answer her question, as the man slowly came into view.
A chilling breeze flew washed over her face, as her eyes found his. An excruciating ache, seeped into her veins, as she crumpled the mauve of her cotton kurta. Her knees buckled, as she watched his hands tightly clutch the paper cup, as the coffee threatened to fall onto the floor.
Khushi’s feet moved back of their own accord, and she turned back, completely. Her hand flew to her face, covering her lips, scared that he might hear the sobs that would escape at any given moment.
Khushi looked straight at her daughter’s face, and saw the look of pure glee hovering in those dark brown eyes, her lips forming a small o, inherited straight from her mother.
Aashna clutched her mother’s arms, still not looking at Khushi’s face, her eyes focused on the man standing behind her mother.
‘Ma, can you believe it? He’s here. At Dehradun’s Airport; in front of our eyes. Ma…can I ask him for an interview, for my assignment? Do you think he’ll agree? Aashna attacked a visibly shaken Khushi, and completely missed the silent stream of tears sliding down her cheeks. And probably Aashna felt her mother nod, as she walked off to the man in front of her.
But had she stayed back, she would have seen the same gaunt expression that enveloped Khushi’s face, clouding Arnav’s.
‘Khushiji, I hope you are okay with—?’ NK had only begun, that Khushi cut him short, simultaneously wiping away the moistness from her face. ‘Arre Nanheji, it absolutely no problem. I’m fine with it,’ she said, trying to bring up the usual enthusiasm back into her voice, making it more convincing.
But NK hadn’t missed her emaciated expression, the second she had seen him. He hadn’t missed for one second, how her pupils had dilated, giving way to the unshed tears that had been accumulating for years, finally flow down, no holds barred. He hadn’t missed the ghost of a smile that was about to break into those lips, but trembled instead, trying to breathe in the reality of the image in front of her.
He had heard rumors of a contract marriage and many more things. But he had chosen to keep quiet, not wanting to interfere in his friend’s life. And even though he desperately wished he could have Khushi, her love, that look in her eyes, that she had only when she saw him, he knew, that it would not happen in a million years.
And even though he still didn’t know what had driven them apart, the reason that was so great that it had made her leave Delhi, and seek refuge in Dehradun, he knew for sure that no reason could be greater than the connection they had, the love they shared.
And he was more than happy to be the one to give their love another chance.
Give Aashna, another chance to have a complete family, a place she would call home, years later.
The man stood there, very much aware of the numbness that had found its way through his legs, as the small hand bag slung over his shoulders suddenly seemed too heavy. His eyes were glued at the sight in front of him. NK was talking to her.
He couldn’t see her properly, but he just knew. She hadn’t changed too much. The flashy pom-poms were gone, and her footwork was definitely less clumsy. The colorful suits she had worn usually were replaced by beautiful, plain chiffon sarees. He couldn’t help but notice how ethereal she looked, more mature though. The same porcelain skin, glowing, was aching to be touched, once again by his thirsty fingers. The ebony hair knotted into a messy bun, as teasing tendrils, curled, ever so beautifully, hung over the sides over her face, entwining sometimes with the little silver jhumkis, as they sashayed around.
He couldn’t help but notice how his heart seemed to be throbbing against his chest, making him feel alive, after what felt like a decade. He wanted to pinch himself, to make him believe in the utter miracle, he was witnessing before his eyes.
She was here.
She was here, in front of him.
She was here, in front of him, in flesh and bones.
He suddenly heard someone coughing, next to him, breaking into his reverie.
‘Hello, Mr. Raizada, right?’ Aashna asked a little perturbed when she saw the man standing across her, holding the same expression that she often found on her mother’s face, when she was lost in her own world.
‘Yes, Arnav Singh Raizada. And you are?’ Arnav asked the young girl standing across him. Though his mind was still focused on Khushi, he couldn’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance the girl held with Khushi’s features. The same braided hair and eyes jumping with excitement. Her face was almost like Khushi’s, but her eyes were different. They were…they were like his. But before he could ponder over it, NK came towards him, with Khushi towing behind.
Khushi strained her eyes to the pristine marble floors, as NK talked to him.
‘I think we should all grab a bite before heading back home, it’s a long way up to the apartment. What say?’ NK asked, hoping to neutralize the rising tension seeping through the atmosphere.
Aashna, hooked her arm, along with her mother’s, as NK followed them, walking along with Arnav.
Had it been any other day, Arnav would’ve given a piece of his mind to NK, for shoving him into the backseat of the car, as he himself comfortably went and sat next to the driver.
But, that day, he could’ve sat next to her, forever, never bothering to get out. Their thighs touched, almost pressed against each other’s. Her slender arms, brushed against the grey of his coat, every time the car halted suddenly, or turned at a corner.
He thought someone or the other might have heard his very audible gasp, as Khushi, took out the pin holding her hair back, letting them cascade down her shoulders, in a desperate measure to hide her flushed face from his eyes. He swore inwardly, as the faint scent of fresh jasmine, wafted through his nostrils, intoxicating his already shaken senses.
He saw as she crumpled the hem of the pallu of her saree, just after his elbow had unknowingly, or maybe knowingly, brushed across the bare expanse of skin at her waist.
There was so much electricity clinging to every breath they took, that at the slightest of triggers, a fire could be kindled, enough to consume them both, even after the dangerously long pause.
The Santro halted in front of a small restaurant. NK told the driver to wait, getting out as Aashna joined in, jumping up and down in excitement. They both seemed to have forgotten the other two, left behind in the car.
Khushi shifted towards the right, pulling the door opened, as she moved to get out of the suffocating car. But she felt an excruciatingly gentle hold at her wrist.
A hold, a touch she had yearned for so long. For that one second, she closed her hand, wanting him to tug at her hand, yanking him furiously against his chest, like he had so many times before. She wanted to see the seething anger in his eyes, the glint that held a sense of control. She wanted him to shout at her, scream at her. But she didn’t want him to touch her like the way he did then. A way that was cautious, as if she would break at the slightest hint of pressure. A way that was so unlike him.
Yet, she turned around; facing the man she had ached to see for all these past years, completely, without hesitation. She drank in immediately the sight of his face. The hard planes of his face were now intervened by more lines of worry, she thought. But still, he was strikingly handsome. Chiseled contours, brutally beautiful.
She raised her shaky hands, as her fingers, lingered near his face, not touching still, as he closed his eyes in anticipation.
They touched, her fingertips, like small dots, slowly treading over the slight bristles of his almost invisible stubble, rising to the softer planes of his bronze skin, building up slight pressure, as the whole of her palm, rested on his left cheek. The other hand followed, this time with no hesitation, cupping his face, as gently as she could.
Khushi didn’t fail to notice, how his eyes were still closed, a single tear made down his face, just as a million streaked down hers. And they fell mercilessly, till he finally open his eyes, not moving his hands. Only his eyes scrutinized her face, questioning her silently.
‘Khushi…’ Arnav breathed out, as a wave of pleasure shot down into both their souls. A word that sounded so different, so wonderful, giving it a whole new dimension when she heard it from his lips. And when he said it, it was like soothing balm to his own senses, healing every previous wound.
He waited for several minutes, before she finally looked into his eyes, and said ‘Arnav…’
For some it would mean nothing, a simple taking of names.
But for them, saying and hearing those words, were like taking sips of a long-forgotten elixir, that if not completely, partly quenching the thirst that had built-up over the past years.
I still smile when I see you. The sky is in you, the ground feels you. You paint the perfect picture. Others stare in amazement and wonder. Not me. No. I know too much and yet, I can’t stop learning you, your little actions, the way your lips tremble when you see me, smile, when I smile. Understanding your mind is a puzzle, I’m still trying to solve. Talking to your soul is something I can’t control. I never had an ignorace, my thought of you is and will be the same as when I first glanced apon your elegance. Nothing will change.